Divorce is something most folks prefer not to go through, but which probably half of all married folks in the U.S. ultimately do. If divorce is indicative of some kind of moral failing, it is one that is surely informed by biology. Evolutionary biology. This is beautifully laid out in 2 books by Rudgers University anthropologist, Helen Fisher, PhD:

Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray


Why We Love : The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love

I want to share a quote from page 159 of "Anatomy of Love" that will set the stage for what I hope will be a thought provoking spin on the divorce process: 

When asked why her marriages failed, Margaret Mead replied, "I have been married three times, and not one of them was a failure".

Dr. Mead's spin on her own serially monogamous marriages is very upbeat and I think healthy from many different angles. Every relationship -- past and present -- that teaches, inspires, motivates, or otherwise contributes to a person's growth, maturation, industry or such contributes to one's storehouse of strengths, coping skills and such ("Fitness'). By this measure few divorces signal failure at all. They tell us much about evolutionary biology and the behavior it informs, and also speak volumes concerning transitions and transformations that can enhance individual fitness. 

Mead's contention mirrors my own. And I would add: Divorce has an element of rejecting the other in it, yes, but this (I feel) is only a small part of the story for many, if not most folks. By and large, I'd wager that most are actually rejecting the relationship itself and not their mate per se. Yes, the nature and dynamics of a relationship flow forth from the people involved, but this is not to say that the dysfunction or failure or what-have-you in the "stepchild" the couple creates (the relationship) is an engrained attribute or feature of either party.

To use a crude analogy, let's think of a couple as two basically complementary software programs running on a PC. They are individually and collectively well designed and functional, but occasionally give rise to system and operations conflicts. The programs continue to operate, but as a consequence spins off some additional errors with the passage of time. The 2 programs remain (say) 99% intact -- skillful works of design, mind you -- but undergo gradual declines in performance and efficiency. Eventually the minor conflicts blend to create a major, fatal one -- and the system crashes. The programmer then teases apart the 2 formerly intertwined programs, and debugs them -- but discovers that the changes to the programs are sufficient to make them ill fitted to be run in tandem ever again. They remain beautiful design works, though no longer capable of running as an interactive, complementary "whole".  

Looked at in this vein, divorce may not be as painful for at least some of those going through it and may well take on a different hue for some of those who have been through it.

Submitted for your thoughtful consideration by Dr. Anthony G. Payne

2005 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.





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